Actress Deborah Raffin, who became the quintessential California blonde TV movie/mini-series ingenue and heroine during the three decades when the genre thrived in the 1970s-1980s-1990s, died on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Times quoted her brother as saying she’d had leukemia for the past year and passed away at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. She was 59. Though she starred in several features, she was best known for her TV work and most recently took recurring roles on The Secret Life Of The American Teenager (2008-2010) and 7th Heaven (1996-2005). Also, later in life, she started what eventually became the multimilliondollar Dove audio books with her then husband, showbiz entrepreneur Michael Viner. (They sold the company in 1997.) Los Angeles-born Raffin was the daughter of 20th Century Fox contract player Trudy Marshall and became a TV star when she was discovered in an elevator by an agent. With her fresh looks and empathetic acting, Raffin went on to become one of the most well-known TV actresses of her generation – almost always playing the young woman whom men tried to protect from life’s harsh realities but who ultimately found independence. In many ways, Raffin helped define early feminism through acting roles as the daughter of a Hollywood producer (Kirk Douglas) in Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough (1975), as Brooke Hayward in the autobiographical Haywire 1980), and as a businesswoman in James Clavell’s Noble House (1988).
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